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Medieval Facts & Myths: Was Prince John really wicked?

Most of us know Prince John as the iconic bad guy from the Robin Hood legend. But was John really a wicked tyrant in real life?

There are actually two myths about John Lackland, the youngest son of King Henry II and brother to the famous King Richard I, AKA the Lionheart.

THE FIRST MYTH, originating from the Robin Hood legend, portrays John as a conniving prince who oppresses England’s loyal subjects while his righteous brother King Richard is away on a crusade.

THE SECOND MYTH, a more recent invention, is the total repudiation of the first. In this telling, John is a decent, able king and a hard-working administrator.

According to a majority of scholars, the truth lies somewhere between these two exaggerations.

John’s reign created the foundation of England's naval power. But John’s onerous taxes sparked an uprising of nobles and bishops that led to the signing of the Magna Carta, England’s first “bill of rights.” John has been described by historians as petty, spiteful and cruel. Yet, they also note that John’s personal faults were not much different from most medieval monarchs. In truth, instead of a legendary villain, John Lackland was mostly a typical ruler of his era.

In KING ROBIN, Prince John hews closer to the wicked version of the historical figure.

As the novel’s main scoundrel, John envies and loathes central character Robert Webber for his reputation as a military hero. At the same time, John seeks to destroy Webber's secret alter ego: the popular bandit Robin Hood.


Medieval Facts & Myths is a blog series featuring KING ROBIN, a novel by R. A. Moss from Beck and Branch Publishers. LEARN MORE or ORDER NOW



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